Search results

Your search found 2 items
Sort: Relevance | Topics | Title | Author | Publication Year
Home  / Search Results
Date: 2016
Date: 2013
Abstract: The aim of this study is to analyze how ethnic-boundary drawing has been influenced in the urban
context by the turbulent events of twentieth-century Europe. The analysis is specifically applied to the
social boundaries of the small Helsinki Jewish community from the early twentieth century until the
In the period covered by this research, Helsinki evolved from a multilingual and heterogeneous
military town of the Russian empire into the capital of an independent nation. As one of the few
Eastern European Orthodox Jewish communities not destroyed in the Holocaust, the history of the
Helsinki Jewish community offers a different set of spatial contexts that make this history an
empirical case study of changing ethnic relations from one generation to another.
My study suggests that empirical materials can be used as clues for teasing into existence the
long-vanished practices of boundary-drawing done at various times in the past. Collecting and
organizing information in archives is always guided by decisions that reflect the contemporary ideas
of relevant and meaningful social categories. Consequently, as Jews ‘in Finland’ became Finnish
Jews, the ethnic background subsequently lost its distinction in the archival material; in short, the
sources gradually became “mute” in this respect. My research strategy is to focus on questions
concerning the economic aspects of social boundaries, for example, whether the members of the
Helsinki Jewish congregation were entrepreneurs or were self-employed.
I have operationalized occupational status to analyze changes in the social position of the
community. The occupational titles were collected from three different cross-section years and
organized by using a Historical International Classification of Occupations (HISCO) Scheme. By
combining the occupational titles with the data on the Jewish-owned companies, I have established a
set of descriptive statistics. Supported by the findings of this empirical material, my study analyzes
how the concept of Finnish Jews has taken shape over the entire period of this study.
Contemporaries writing about the Jews of Finland did not use concepts of ‘ethnic boundaries,’ but
nevertheless considered questions related to economic aspects as the key elements in modern
societies. Such questions were a constant theme in modern economic antisemitism with a major
influence on Jewish policies, such as the restriction of Jewish occupations in Finland until 1918,
which in turn influenced the (counter-)narratives of Jewish business. This is what makes the Jewish
occupations so interesting – and also makes discussing them such a sensitive issue.
The community is an important part of the history of Helsinki, but it has only been accepted as a
part of the larger Finnish society since the Second World War. During this process, Jews were clearly
less frequently categorized as Jews and more frequently categorized by the professions they
In this study I have contextualized different aspects of what has been selected and written down as
Finnish-Jewish history. This involves discovering the political positions of its various authors. All
histories on the Finnish Jews have been written during the post-Second World War period and, in
consequence, are unavoidably viewed through post-Shoah/Cold War lenses. In these writings, the
national and transnational aspects are totally severed and become, indeed, mutually exclusive.
The Jewish history of Helsinki is often told as a collective story, where each generation faces
similar challenges and options. In this way, the past has been described as a joint striving for all
Finnish Jews. In reality, wide economic differences have played an important role in what is
ultimately a business-oriented community. In this narrative, the Jewish history has been reduced to a
bare minimum in order to serve as a collective story. Consequently, in the histories of the city of
Helsinki, Jews have either been described as poor, or they have not been remembered at al